Pope Francis paid tribute to the late Armenian Catholic Patriarch Gregory Peter XX Ghabroyan in a letter read aloud at his funeral on Saturday, the Catholic News Agency reports.
Patriarch Ghabroyan, who led the Armenian Patriarchate of Cilicia in Lebanon, died on May 25 in Beirut at the age of 86.
“I remember well that when he was elected, in the summer of 2015, before accepting he wanted to ask me for a special blessing, to be able to lead the Patriarchal Church despite his advanced age,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter that was read at the funeral in Beirut on May 29.
The Pope wrote that Patriarch Ghabroyan had “faced the loss of his physical strength with dignity” in the “last period of his earthly pilgrimage.”
“During these years, as a caring pastor, His Beatitude presided over the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians, establishing contacts with various civil and ecclesiastical institutions, so that a number of initiatives of solidarity with the most tried populations, especially in Syria and Lebanon, could be supported,” he said.
Pope Francis recalled “many special moments” in which he was able to be close to the patriarch.
“And, with him, to the beloved Armenian people, who have suffered so much throughout history but have always remained faithful to their profession of faith in Christ the Savior,” he wrote.
The pope remembered in particular his apostolic trip to Armenia in 2016 and the 2018 inauguration of a statue of Saint Gregory of Narek in the Vatican Gardens.
The patriarch’s funeral was held in the Armenian Catholic Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator-St. Elias in Beirut on May 29.
Cardinal Mario Zenari, the apostolic nuncio in Syria, read aloud the pope’s letter at the funeral.
Archbishop Boutros Marayati of the Catholic Armenians of Aleppo presided over the funeral and Auxiliary Bishop Kevork Assadourian of Beirut of the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate delivered the homily.
“First of all, the late patriarch was a lover of the poor, as evidenced by the assistance and closeness he wished to offer, away from the spotlight, in favor of poor families especially over these last two years when Lebanon is experiencing unsustainable economic and social conditions,” Bishop Assadourian said, according to Vatican News.
“Even on his hospital bed he continued to manage, organize and convene meetings trying to meet the needs of his Church and his people,” he said.